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The Tribes Model of Marketing and Change

In last week’s Pocketblog, I suggested that marketers can create their very own niche, so that their business can win competitive advantage through being uniquely able to address the needs of that niche.  The people who are passionate about your product, yet ambivalent about competing products with very similar functionality could be called your ‘Tribe’.

I have taken this use of the word from Seth Godin; marketer, author, blogger and above all, supreme creator of tribes, and author of the book Tribes: We need you to lead us.  People read his blogs and then buy his books because he is good at promoting his ideas.  Many of his ideas are good, powerful and thought provoking, but his skill is in making it attractive for people to feel part of his tribe.  They then pay for his books to feel closer to the tribe.

Tribes are not just for Marketing

One of Seth’s strongest ideas is that Tribes are how we can bring about change.  This gives him an implicit model of change that is simple and compelling.  I call it an implicit model, because he does not articulate it as a model, so let’s unwrap what he says.

A Model of Change

Seth Godin and Change through Tribalism

Let’s look at each step of this model.

Challenge the status quo

Progress, said George Bernard Shaw, is is down to the unreasonable people who refuse to adapt to the world, but rather, seek to adapt the world to them.  If you are going to successfully create change, you have to be prepared to be unreasonable – with the risk, of course, that you will not please everybody.  Indeed, Seth argues that you have to be prepared to upset people.  This is the aspect of change leadership that we might describe as visionary.

Connect to your tribe

You want to go it wholly alone, but that would be foolish, since why should the world change just because you alone say it should?  So you need to create an alliance of people to push for the change.  You need enough people so that they alone can sustain the change, even if you together cannot persuade the rest of us of its merits.  This is your tribe.

Arguably, upsetting people who don’t like the change is an essential part of tribe building: to create an in-culture, you must be able to clearly define an out-group.  Here the change leader must exercise exemplary social skills.

Commit to leadership

People want to be led.  But leadership takes commitment: staying power.  It won’t always be easy, because if it were, then someone would probably have done it already.  This aspect of leadership takes character.  What I think this step requires is an uncompromising attitude to setting and meeting standards.  You must make the story that you have told your tribe live and breathe through your actions, the messages you give, and the things you produce.

Hear Seth Godin for yourself

Seth spoke about this at TED, here:
http://www.ted.com/talks/seth_godin_on_the_tribes_we_lead.html.
I suspect the video technology that TED uses is Flash, so this may not work on an iPhone/iPad.  Sorry.

Seth Godin speaking on Tribes at TED

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One thought on “The Tribes Model of Marketing and Change

  1. […] Market by leading. Find like-minded people who believe in what you are doing and lead them. Create products or services that they want, and they will crave what you offer. The ultimate in permission marketing. See an earlier Pocketblog about Godin’s Tribes concept. […]

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